The White House will not participate in the US House of Representatives Judiciary Committee’s next impeachment hearing, a senior administration official said on Friday in another sign that US President Donald Trump has accepted that he is likely to be impeached by the House.
The decision came in a letter from White House counsel Pat Cipollone ahead of a Friday evening deadline set by the Democratic chairman of the Judiciary Committee, US Representative Jerrold Nadler.
The two-paragraph letter did not expressly state the White House’s refusal to participate.
However, a senior administration official told reporters after the letter was released that that was the point it was intended to communicate.
In the letter, Cipollone accused House Democrats leading the inquiry of wasting the US’ time “with this charade” and charged that adopting articles of impeachment against Trump would amount to a “reckless abuse of power.”
“Whatever course you choose, as the President has recently stated: ‘If you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our country can get back to business,’” Cipollone wrote, citing a tweet from Trump this week.
The decision came one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she had instructed the committee chairmen leading the inquiry into Trump’s dealings with Ukraine to move forward with drafting articles of impeachment.
Trump is accused of abusing his power and compromising national security by pushing the president of Ukraine to investigate his Democratic political rivals as his administration was withholding crucial security aid to the country.
Nadler said the House was disappointed by Trump’s decision, given the complaints by the US president and his allies that the process has been unfair.
“If the president has no good response to the allegations, then he would not want to appear before the committee,” Nadler said in a written statement. “Having declined this opportunity, he cannot claim that the process is unfair. The president’s failure will not prevent us from carrying out our solemn constitutional duty.”
When questioned earlier on Friday about the possibility that the White House would decline to participate, Pelosi said that this was the opportunity for the US president to “show innocence.”
“But they have a consciousness of guilt, and that’s why they may not show up,” she told reporters.
The White House had faced a Friday evening deadline to inform the committee whether it intended to have legal representation at a hearing scheduled for tomorrow that is to focus on the recently released House Intelligence Committee report outlining its findings against Trump.
The White House also declined to attend the Judiciary Committee’s first hearing, held on Wednesday, that featured legal experts outlining the history of impeachment and its constitutional role.
Trump and his aides have made clear that they see his impeachment in the House as inevitable and have shifted their focus to the US Senate, where Trump allies remain confident that Democrats will not have the votes to convict and remove him from office.
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